Wetzel County will take part in the international Save the Frogs Day on April 27, harnessing the efforts of organizations and individuals from Beech Bottom, Ohio, to Mannington, W.Va., under the leadership and inspiration of a single 11-year-old girl.
Nya Derby received her first frog toy when she was two years old, according to her mother, Sharon Derby. During the interview for this story Nya was surrounded by a few of her favorites from her collection. Sharon Derby said Nya now has between 60 and 70 frog toys, all of which have names.
"She just fell in love with them," Derby said.
She said Nya has adopted numerous live frogs over the years at the family home in Littleton. The frogs are treated as family members, cherished and mourned accordingly anytime one dies. Derby remembered a time Nya raised tadpoles and held individual funerals for those that did not survive.
When a friend of hers told her there was a bullfrog in her yard and she did not like it, Nya adopted the bullfrog. Derby said Nya even set up a frog-themed window at a Littleton business in December and was asked to do so for another business for the 2013 holiday season.
Nya recently discovered the Save the Frogs Foundation of Vera Cruz, Calif., and learned there are more than 6,000 species of frogs worldwide, though their numbers are decreasing rapidly.
"There are less than 100 of some of them left," Derby said.
On the Save the Frogs website, the organization states that up to 200 species of frogs have completely disappeared since 1980-a rate of extinction it calls "unprecedented." The organization points out that frogs are useful to humanity as an integral part of the food chain, natural indicators of environmental disturbances, and subjects of research for medical purposes including treatment of high blood pressure, protection from HIV, and curing diabetic ulcers.
According to the Save the Frogs Foundation, frogs are suffering from an onslaught of environmental issues, including pollution, infectious diseases, habitat loss, invasive species, climate change, and over-harvesting for culinary purposes.
"To lose them (frogs) is more tragic than most people realize," Derby said.
According to her mother, Nya already has chosen her profession and mission in life. "She wants to go into zoology and study frogs," Derby said.
She added Nya would like to seek ways to preserve frogs and protect them. As a pre-emptive measure, Nya has created her own organization, "Save the Frogs with Nya." By heading her own organization, Nya was able to set up her own version of Save the Frogs Day in Wetzel County.
The community response has been tremendous, according to Derby. The American Legion offered its meeting hall in Hundred for free to host the event. Schools held penny drives to raise funds among students in a contest setting, and businesses and individuals have pledged to donate food and crafts for a full day of entertainment for all ages.
The April 27 fundraiser will feature a bake sale, a 50/50 raffle, food for sale, crafts, and games for children, including bowling, ring toss and, of course, leapfrog.
According to the Derby family, frog-themed clothing is requested but by no means required. Participants are encouraged to bring a plain T-shirt for a special surprise activity.
Even businesses not participating in the event have rallied behind Nya's efforts, using special donation jars to gather additional funding.
All proceeds of the community's fundraising will be donated to the Save the Frogs Foundation.
Linnea Kumher of the Hundred Public Library said the library will team with educators and community leaders to spread the word about the event, then provide stories and talks both for entertainment and to educate at the event itself.
"We like to support any child showing she's got an idea for her life," Kumher said.
Other businesses and individuals involved include Susie's Crafts and Supplies of Paden City, which donated craft supplies for activities; Roses Garden and Treasures Florist and Gifts of Martinsburg; and Principal Paul Huston II of Long Drain School in Wetzel County.
Save the Frogs With Nya will begin at noon April 27 and last until 4 p.m. The Hundred American Legion is located on Wetzel Street in Hundred. Anyone interested in participating can call Sharon Derby at 304-775-3364.